Springfield neighborhood concerned about drones flying in backyards

Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 9:54 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A Springfield neighborhood has some privacy concerns after a drone was spotted flying over a few backyards.

“I got out of my car and it sounded like there was a bug in my ear, so I was trying to shake the bug off,” Matt Villa said. ”And as I looked up, I saw the drone coming from my backyard over my house.”

Villa said he does not mind neighborhood drone flying, but the location of this particular one on Monday was a different story.

“When there’s just a random drone that’s not in your front yard, but it’s in your backyard, that’s a little more, you know, like invasive,” Villa said.

He said what concerned him most was an unfamiliar car parked around the block.

”Everyone in this neighborhood is pretty aware of what goes on around here,” Villa said. “That’s when I spotted that car. It already stood out to me. It’s not a normal car, I’ve never seen it around here. I kind of connected them pretty easily.”

Villa said the person in the car admitted to flying the drone. He said the pilot got a bit defensive when he asked questions.

But a local drone pilot said despite some of these concerns, drones are still legally allowed to look into a person’s backyard.

”Looking in your backyard with a drone is not a privacy issue,” said drone pilot Jason Preston, owner of 417 Drone Imaging. “Looking in your window in your house would be. The Supreme Court has already ruled that even in your backyard with a privacy fence, if you’re outside your home, you don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy in an open air setting.”

Preston said The FAA has specific rules on drone flight safety.

“The rules are ever in a change of flux,” he said. “Because even for commercial operators, that rule is changing. For the most part, if you’re a hobby guy, or a commercial guy, you want to be well clear of people. And that also includes a provision for speed and handling.”

Preston said commercial drone pilots can fly over people and traffic in very particular circumstances, though. Those commercial pilots do require a license and proper licensing and registration records for their drones. New rules have also shifted for hobby pilots.

“The one big change that we had earlier this year, there is now a recreational test that you have to take and pass if you want to fly any kind of a drone recreationally,” Preston said.

Despite specific safety guidelines for flying a drone, Preston said when it comes to privacy, it is not the FAA’s job to create regulation.

“The FAA’s job is to protect the National Airspace System,” he said. “So that’s why they create the drone rules and the operational stuff. For anything that’s considered privacy, spying or peeping, there are already existing laws for that. If someone is looking in your window, whether they’re using a ladder, they’re climbing on the fence, a zoom camera or anything, that is peeping in your house. So there doesn’t need to be a specific, ‘you can’t peep in my house with a drone,’ because that’s already illegal.”

However, Preston said the FAA prohibits you from flying a drone in your backyard or in any backyard unless you are licensed and your drone is registered.

Despite the legality of drones in backyards, Matt Villa said he warned his neighbors to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity.

”Just keep your eyes peeled,” he said. “You know, you never really know whether it’s someone good or someone bad. But I’d at least like to know.”

Preston said if you have issues with how someone is flying their drone, it is best to contact law enforcement. He also said to keep in mind that it is illegal to shoot down a drone.

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